With an abiding interest in science, Isabella Kirkland's work bears witness to the immense ecological challenges and losses humanity is facing.

Why you should listen

Isabella Kirkland's work presents a seamless blend of art and science with attention to the techniques of the Dutch Old Masters, as well as her meticulous approach to her subject through a scientific lens. Drawing on the lineage of scientific illustration, she applies a similar accuracy to a different service: the building of an analog visual record of what we stand to lose in the coming centuries. Thirty years of paintings have created a meaningful set of iconic images that record, identify and represent the fate of individual species. She works in the time-tested medium of oils so that, assuming her paintings survive the ravages of the years, her works will stand as evidence of some of life forms lost during the Anthropocene Era.

A high point in Kirkland's journey as an artist was exhibiting her first four Taxa paintings beside Vladimir Nabokov's butterflies and collecting equipment at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, just down the hall from the Blaschkas's "Glass Flower" collection. That exhibit led to her painting Descendant, which was featured on the cover of E. O. Wilson's book The Future of Life. Many paintings later, she still feels she will never run out of species and ecosystems to lobby for and celebrate.

Isabella Kirkland’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Isabella Kirkland

Live from TED Countdown Summit 2023

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July 13, 2023

To rise to the challenge of climate change, we need big, bold, gigaton-scale solutions. Session 4 of TED Countdown Summit 2023 focused on the clean technologies that need to scale fast — and made space for ideas on radical climate leadership, the use of art for environmental activism and the push for climate-friendly alternatives to […]

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